Prepare agency staff for implementation of new ITS technologies and involve maintenance and information technology (IT) staff in the installation process.

Washoe County’s experience implementing a comprehensive transit ITS program.

May 2010
Reno; Nevada; United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada involved the agency staff in its comprehensive ITS implementation process, which began with the selection of a contractor and continued for four years until the system was accepted as operational meeting the requirements set by the agency. The lessons learned from RTC’s efforts to prepare for and to manage the impending challenges posed by new technologies are presented below.

Prepare agency staff for implementation of new ITS technologies.
    Recognize disruptive changes: It is nearly impossible for a technical installation involving hundreds of vehicles, multiple communication networks, and dozens of computers to happen flawlessly. The agency Project Manager should prepare agency staff for the potential that installation may be disruptive and challenging. As noted in other lessons from this project, having champions for each transit ITS user group would provide a way to maintain enthusiasm and communicate with the agency staff. Proper preparation would reduce potential staff frustration.

    Prepare staff for acceptance: In many agencies, some transit staff members are reluctant to change their current practices, regardless of the potential benefits of a new system. When the system has shortcomings or failures, the reluctant staff members may become more hesitant to accept new technologies, even after they are working well. By preparing staff and making them aware that the system is likely to have some issues at startup, it will help to encourage staff acceptance.

    Include staff as co-participants: RTC’s staff was accepting of the new transit ITS. The agency Project Manager did an excellent job of involving staff in the planning and procurement process, and preparing them for potential issues. It was noted during interviews for this evaluation that dispatch and maintenance employees were fully accepting of the system from the beginning and expected debugging to be part of the implementation process. A small number of vehicle operators, however, did have technical issues with in-vehicle hardware. While those early issues have been resolved, the staff members that experienced them are still less likely to accept and fully utilize the transit ITS.

    Listen to staff’s concerns: Some ways to prepare staff for the potential obstacles of the implementation process are to provide them with channels for voicing their complaints and frustrations. This can be a form for them to document system errors or functions that do not work properly. Such a form gives the contractor and agency Project Managers concrete examples to review and resolve. It also can help the staff feel a sense of ownership in the system because they are a part of the process to improve it.
Involve maintenance and information technology (IT) staff in the installation process.
    Work side by side with contractor: Many agencies expect a transit ITS system to be fully installed by the selected contractor. During the installation, RTC’s contractor worked side-by-side with RTC staff, and RTC believes it gave the agency a much better ability to diagnose and repair the transit ITS components on its own. As a result, the RTC RIDE (RTC’s fixed-route service) staff are able to resolve many issues in-house. That ability reduces potential delays while waiting for the contractor to do repairs.

    Build in-house capability: Two members of RTC RIDE’s maintenance staff observed installations of hardware aboard all the fixed route vehicles. They participated in the wiring, placement and testing of hardware, so they are familiar with how to remove, diagnose and replace equipment. RTC ACCESS (RTC’s paratransit service) maintenance staff observed the installation on several buses, but did not participate. They frequently rely on the RTC RIDE Maintenance staff for support. The RTC RIDE expertise has also allowed them to inspect new vehicles that are shipped to RTC with the transit ITS installed. In some case, RTC RIDE Maintenance staff have been able to find and correct errors in the new vehicles.
RTC involved its staff extensively in the ITS implementation process, which prepared them well to manage the new technologies after implementation. RTC has largely achieved the goals of its transit ITS deployment program and benefited significantly in many ways including better schedule adherence, increased ridership, reduced emissions, and increased customer satisfaction.

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Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County Intelligent Transportation System Implementation Evaluation Study

Author: Tina Wu, Matt Weatherford, Ancila Kaiparambil, Linna Zhang

Published By: Federal Transit Administration U.S. Department of Transportation

Source Date: May 2010

Other Reference Number: FTA Report FTA- NV-26-7005-2010.1

URL: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/RTC_ITS_Eval_Study_section508.pdf

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Benefits From This Source

Automatic vehicle location (AVL) on Reno buses leads to nearly four percent increase in on-time performance for paratransit services and more comprehensive schedule adherence data to create more accurate schedules.

Estimated reduction of 9.37 million personal vehicle miles traveled and 4,252 metric tons of CO2 from increased transit ridership in Reno, Nevada.

Forty-five percent reduction in complaints by paratransit riders, 50 percent less missed trips due to mechanical problems, and a new trip planning tool for fixed-route riders introduced as part of ITS deployment in Reno.

Overtime hours for drivers reduced and no staff increase necessary to handle over 10 percent increase in transit ridership over six years.

Lessons From This Source

Be prepared to use local resources to service mission critical system components, and provide ongoing O&M training to maximize system benefits.

Consider procuring computer and network hardware independently when feasible and procure right-sized systems.

Define clear goals for a comprehensive transit ITS deployment program and track the achievement of those goals to evaluate program's success.

Designate the agency project manager as the single point of contact with the contractor and evaluate track record of contractor’s project management.

Develop requirements using widely accepted standards, preferably the open source compatible ones if available, and review those requirements immediately before requesting proposals from contractors.

Do not expect to see significant operations staff reductions due to implementing ITS technologies, but do expect service improvements using the same staff levels.

Encourage staff to find creative and efficient uses of ITS to improve operations through better communications.

Ensure that the management responsible for transit ITS planning is knowledgeable on agency’s labor contracts and how labor contracts affect effective utilization of ITS tools.

Expect agency's information technology (IT) operations and maintenance budget to increase in order to train qualified IT staff to maintain a new suite of hardware and software.

For a comprehensive transit ITS deployment program, select an agency project manager with skills in planning, information technology, and communications.

Identify champions early to facilitate communications, project management, and staff ownership for successful deployment of a comprehensive transit ITS program.

In deploying a comprehensive transit ITS program, develop strategies and requirements for planning, procurement, implementation, and ongoing operations.

Prepare agency staff for implementation of new ITS technologies and involve maintenance and information technology (IT) staff in the installation process.

To avoid project implementation delays and unanticipated costs, perform a thorough review of the existing technologies during the planning phase of a comprehensive transit ITS deployment.

To avoid surprises after implementation of a comprehensive transit ITS program, perform a detailed analysis of costs for operations and maintenance during the project planning phase.

Understand that the contractor’s availability to remain on site after the deployment of a comprehensive transit ITS is important, so is the contractor’s ability to work with the original equipment manufacturer.

Weigh in the advantages of procuring new information technology (IT) assets, and maintain an asset management system that details new IT inventory.

Lesson ID: 2011-00612